Policy

NYC TV Week: NCTA, NAB Chiefs See New FCC Head Soon

Both Agreed Their Constituents Have Been Strained by Retransmission Battles 10/28/2013 1:48 PM Eastern

NAB CEO Gordon Smith sees a new FCC chief likely by Christmas but NCTA topper Michael Powell is "guardedly optimistic" that an appointment could come sooner as Congress tries to move past gridlock.

Kicking off the inaugural New York Television Week, presented by B&C, Multichannel News, Next TV and NAB, Monday, the duo appeared on a panel together agreeing that Democrat Tom Wheeler would get through, and the sooner the better as the industry faces key challenges.

Moderator John Eggerton, Washington Bureau Chief of B&C and Multichannel News, had asked the heads of the television industry's two key trade groups if they saw a new FCC chairman in place for Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas.

"We're in a situation where it could pop tomorrow. You don't know," said Powell, a former FCC chairman himself.

Smith hopes the Commission will show more of an emphasis on broadcast along with what he said has been a laser focus on broadband, "because one will not replace the other." People want TV when they want it, he said, but they also want it live.

They hope the FCC will look long and hard at the 1992 Telecommunications Act, which still provides  the basic architecture of the industry despite huge changes in the business.

Powell and Smith agreed their constituents have been strained by retransmission battles. But Powell said the conflict is inevitable as cable has reached a new level of maturation -- meaning it can't easily add new subscribers. "It puts pressure on your suppliers."

Smith warned that consumers pocketbooks are limited and over-the-top video does provide an alternative. Added Powell: "I see some of the best-funded, savviest technology companies standing on the mountaintop waiting to ride down and disrupt our business."